Oil rises to near $103 a barrel after China reports improvement in manufacturing

The price of oil rose modestly to near $103 a barrel Monday on the prospect of increased demand from China after data showed an improvement in manufacturing there.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. oil for July delivery was up 14 cents to $102.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the Nymex contract fell 87 cents.

Chinese data released Sunday revealed that manufacturing grew for the third consecutive month in May, suggesting a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy is stabilizing.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said that its monthly manufacturing index rose to 50.8 points in May on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity expanding. It was the index’s highest level this year.

The figures are “giving rise to hopes that Chinese oil demand will pick up in the second half of the year,” said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt in a note to clients.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 21 cents to $109.20 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Traders are focused on U.S. jobs data set to be released later in the week that could boost expectations for higher demand. A sharp drop in U.S. gasoline supplies in the last week’s report from the Energy Information Administration also pointed to rising fuel consumption.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $2.9719 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 5.1 cents to $4.593 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil gained 0.27 cent to $2.8909 a gallon.